Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nice & Naughty: Chocolate Edition

Have I mentioned before that I LOVE making gift baskets?  I love coordinating gifts in a theme and putting them all in a fact years ago I had this dream of opening my own shop.  I was going to call it "The Basket Loft" and I would sell all of my favorite things...candles, chocolates, baskets, baking and dip mixes, coffees and mugs, and all kinds of coordinating things that could be given as theme gifts.  I had a vision of it being a rustic little store with a real loft filled with baskets and benches, wooden shelves and signs with cute sayings on them.  I would custom design gift baskets for people with coordinating cloth and ribbons.  Who knows, maybe someday...

For my "nice" list today my theme is "all things chocolate".  If you know me at all you know that I can be quite fanatical about chocolate, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite chocoholic fixes...along with a gift basket theme idea, you know since it's Christmas and all and maybe you have some last minute shopping to do yet (not that I'd know anything about that).  

~ The Nice List ~

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips - these are simply the best chocolate chips, bar none.  Once you have had these, you'll never go back to wax chips - er, I mean other brands of chocolate chips (which all taste like wax compared to these.  Sorry, Nestle, but they do).  Gift idea:  Put a bag of these chips in a Christmasy mixing bowl lined with a coordinating dish towel and wooden spoon set. 

Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Cocoa Mix - Yummy and awesome as hot chocolate, but this mix also makes the best brownies ever.  The recipe is on the can.  Gift idea:  you could do the same thing as the chocolate chip idea above, or instead of the mixing bowl you could get one of those lazy people brownie pans (have you seen those with the metal grid that you bake inside the pan so you don't have to go to all the laborous effort of cutting your own brownies).  If the person is really special, you could even include a bag of chocolate chips in with the gift.  But make sure the person IS really special because they will be in all kinds of love with you after making these brownies and if you don't want them to be it could be a little awkward. 

Tiramisu Wind & Willow Cheeseball Mix - it's the bomb!  Except with all their dip mixes, I think they taste better mixed with 12 oz. cream cheese instead of just 8 oz. that the box calls for.  Serve it with animal crackers, or graham cracker sticks.  And if you are looking for a great gift idea, get one of these mixes and a cute spreader for under $10...or if you can spend a little more you can get a coordinating dip bowl too! 

Nutella.  It's simply amazing...on bagels, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, and even bananas.  Add a layer of peanut butter and you'll think your mouth died and went to taste bud heaven.  And once the jar is opened, you'll have to hide it from your kids or it will be gone.  Not that I would know anything about that.  As far as a gift idea...I'm not sure you could get away with giving it as a gift.  But if you really wanted to you could put it in a basket with a jar of my nutty butter.  Yummo.

One more for now...

This is awesome.  Just microwave it (after first sampling some of the chips to make sure they are good, of course).  Tastes awesome with mini-marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, chunks of angelfood cake, and whatever else you like to dip in chocolate which for me is pretty much anything.  Good alternative if you don't have time to set up the big chocolate fountain. don't have a chocolate fountain?  Well, you should.  I picked up a brand new one at a garage sale for $20 (someone's unused wedding gift, no doubt) and it's become a holiday tradition at our house.

~ The Naughty List ~

Carob.  It's supposed to taste like chocolate, but contains no cocoa powder. 


It does not taste like chocolate anymore than margarine tastes like real butter.  The only reason I know this is because my parents thought I was allergic to chocolate growing up, but alas I was not.  I won't revisit that story...suffice to say that my parents would buy me carob bars as a substitute for the real thing (which I really did appreciate because they did it out of love and sympathy and this was the only option available except for tootsie rolls which don't contain any chocolate either, but you can only eat so many tootsie rolls).  Yes, it's true, I was deprived of chocolate as a child, but don't feel too sorry for me as I am more than making up for it as an adult! 

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